Studying in the UK vs Studying in Canada

by Kaley Dallaire

Since coming to the UK I have noticed quite a few differences from Canada. I have come from an undergraduate in Canada to a masters in England so some of these differences may be because of being in a postgraduate course. Regardless, there are quite a few things that differ in studying in the UK.

A large stone building

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Figure 1 The Arches (Newcastle University)
  • Marking criteria
    • In Canada I was marked with a percentage, GPA, and letter grades. Here it’s a little different. For my postgraduate course there are 3 categories that your marks can fall into; Pass, merit, or distinction. The major difference is by what is considered merit or distinction. While 50 is still considered a pass, for my course a merit is 60-70 and a distinction is 70 and above. As well, the grading scheme only goes up to 90. Getting a 60 is considered rather good and many people don’t even get above a 70 whereas in Canada getting a 70 was often an average grade. I must admit it has been difficult getting used to seeing a low number and associating it with a good grade.
  • Exam and semester dates
    • Back home my undergraduate exams would happen in December before Christmas and second semester would start in January when you return from the break. Here my exams are in January after I return for Christmas and second semester doesn’t start until the very end of January. As well, first semester started in October.
A sign on the side of a building

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Figure 2 Banner of Alumni Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean)
  • Weight of assignments
    • This has been very difficult to get used to. Back home one class would have multiple assignments, 1 or 2 midterms, and a final exam. This meant that everything would be worth less. Final exams were typically worth 25% and you could go into it with a high grade due to previous assignments, midterms, and attendance increasing your overall grade. Here, I have two classes where there’s one assignment worth 100%. Another class had two assignments worth 50% each, and one class had an assignment worth 25% leaving the final exam worth 75%. This has been really hard to get used to as you only have one chance to do well and your entire grade falls on one assignment/ exam. However, on the plus side it makes for fewer due dates and less work throughout the term.
  • Class schedule
    • Back home I would have to select my own classes and make my own schedule. Here, my schedule was made for me. This first semester I had 4 classes with school only two days a week, and lunch breaks scheduled in for me. This was a lot of stress taken off the registration process and leaves for lots of free time built into my schedule for me. Another bonus is that classes tend to go on a 9-5 schedule where in Canada I had classes as early as 8am and knew people who had evening classes that went until 10pm.

While there are many differences that I have come across since studying in England, overall the experience hasn’t been anything too shocking and these differences are all part of this adventure. Some have taken some getting used to (assignments worth 100%) where others I have happily taken on (schedules made up for you). If this has made you curious as to what studying in the UK would be like, then contact an Across the Pond advisor to get started on your applications!